Johnny Lester had just gotten out of the slammer after 13 years for canceling the ticket of a guy who insulted his wife.
He wasn't a victim of nightmares in his cell, but he thought he was witnessing a miracle when Rafael Abramovitz appeared at the bar room door.
"My God," Johnny exclaimed. "That must have been some operation to get Raf back on his feet."
On the television show "A Current Affair," Raf was always pictured sitting down at a word processor in various parts of the country.
"All the guys in prison thought he was disabled. We all felt sorry for him because we didn't know he could walk."
Johnny was typical of the crowd that surrounded "A Current Affair." Con men, criminals, celebrities, politicians - all seemed to remain part of the show's extended family, even when we beat them up.
Burt Kearns, in his new book "Tabloid Baby," takes us on a delightful and raucous romp through that world.
It was a world that will never be seen again. The wildest bunch of pirates imaginable. I know because I was there.
In eloquent if sometimes brutal prose, Kearns, a senior producer on the show, unmasks all the usual suspects, which would guarantee that Tom Brokaw wouldn't let himself be buried in the same cemetery as any of us.
Kearns sums up the spin when he describes being offered a job at CBS:
"There was something about CBS that didn't smell right.
"Something cultish in the way employees saw themselves upholding a sacred tradition, carrying out some grand mission to spread the CBS orthodoxy."
Well, Dan Rather we weren't, but more like a brazen bunch of bandits who ambushed, conned, begged, borrowed, bought and charmed to grab that story.
"We'd taken television to a delirious and dangerous edge," Kearns writes.
In varying doses of scandal, celebrity, crime, politics and morality, the tabloid television tales riveted a nation for a decade and Kearns grabs it all in print.
Like stories of the exclusive video of Robert Chambers, the "Preppy Killer," secured by Abromovitz, which wiped the networks' clocks.
And the sex tapes of brat-packer Rob Lowe, which bewitched millions although Kearns admits to hijacking the tape.
But if the elite networks turned their noses up at the menu, then shrieks of silence followed when they saw the "A Current Affair" SWAT team in action when the Berlin Wall came down.
The team, led by Kearns, consisted in part of Maury Povich, a class act, the giant Gordon Elliott, and scrappy reporter David Miller.
When the Rathers, Jennings and Brokaws saw Gordon Elliott climb the wall and then start chipping away with a pick ax as the cameras rolled, the networks knew who was doing the driving.
Kearns actually admits to a borderline kidnapping of a German from New York and a forced reunion with a brother in East Germany, who hated his guts.
"We were the f-ing champions of the world," Kearns exults in the book.
At the helm of the hysterical high-tension hijinx was the gentle genius producer Peter Brennan and executive producer Ian Rae. They were ably aided and abetted by a marvelous maniac called Wayne Darwen. Also on board was Scotsman Dick McWilliams.
The news room resembled something out of a rerun of Hildy Johnson's "Front Page."
The air was blue with language, political incorrectness and cigarette smoke. And while there may not have been a whiskey bottle in the bottom drawer, there was plenty of the stuff at the bottom of the stairs and across the road at The Racing Club.
The title of the book, "Tabloid Baby," tells you how it all went full circle until Kearns goes respectable, marries beautiful British TV anchor Alison Holloway and has a lovely son called Sam. All wrapped up in Los Angeles suburbia.
Those wedding bells are breaking up that old gang of mine.
Of course, I normally would have sued the son-of-a-gun for what he wrote about me, but I can't - it's all doggone true.